Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the Sabah state in Northern Borneo. It’s a popular stop for most visitors to the region and is well known both for its beautiful beaches and bustling markets. Whether you’re visiting en route to the Kinabalu National Park or exploring the wealth of culture that’s on offer in the city itself, food will surely be on your mind. So we look at the top places to eat in Kota Kinabalu.
What cuisine is available?
The food here in Kota Kinabalu reflects a meeting of cultures. With influences across the East making up more traditional Malaysian cuisine, Kota Kinabalu eateries include an East meets West fusion too. Not forgetting the burger and chicken wing fast food outlets. So the short answer to what cuisine is available in Kota Kinabalu is everything! The local dishes have evolved to make the most of natural provisions. Not only this, but the presentation is often beautiful, with carved crudities and edible flowers. Since Kota Kinabalu is a coastal city, seafood is a predominant ingredient.
Kota Kinabalu isn’t short of options when it comes to traditional local cuisine. For a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, Little Sulap Cafe is the place to go. Inspired by recipes passed down through generations, the menu here is authentically Sabahan. Restaurant Sin Kee specialises in the traditional dish Bah Kut Teh. This broth made up of pork ribs and herbs is so popular that customers are spilling out onto the streets here. If you’re looking for something a little more refined, The Latest Recipe at Le Meridien highlights local Sabahan dishes alongside European options.
South Indian-influenced banana leaf curry is popular across Kota Kinabalu. Visit Sri Latha Curry House for recommended leaf rice sets. Available at lunchtime, you’ll be served rice with an assortment of chutneys on a banana leaf. Add your choice of a selection of curries, and it’s impossible to leave hungry. Jothy’s Fish Head Curry and Banana Leaf Restaurant is a popular destination for a similar experience and is open through the evening as well as during the day. Head to Kedai Kopi Yee Fung if laksa curry soup is up your street. There are often queues here, a testament to the tastiness of the Sabah-style laksa fare.
Kedai Makan is a popular destination for its traditional Roti. This flatbread is often served with lentil soup or curry and vegetables on top, then a fried egg to finish. This combination will fill you up for the day at a very reasonable price! Alu Alu Kitchen has a Chinese-inspired menu designed to share, so it offers great value for groups and is cheaper than advertised prices for solo travellers. Not only this, but the restaurant has a sustainable and organic ethos that makes it noteworthy.
Serving both vegetarian and vegan options, Vege Garden is recommended for both its breadth of menu and value for money. There’s a changing selection of vegetarian and vegan options to accompany a choice of white or brown rice. Not only this, but the service is so friendly that people head here for advice as much as a cuisine!
As a coastal city, seafood is hugely popular in Kota Kinabalu. This means that there are boundless opportunities to taste seafood delicacies. The Kota Kinabalu Night Market offers many different street food stalls, but seafood is predominant here. Visit to browse for fresh ingredients and authentically cooked street food, but most of all, for the bustling atmosphere and experience. Choose freshly caught seafood direct from a tank at the Welcome Seafood Restaurant, and then select the cooking style. This place is famous among locals and, as the fish is priced per kilo according to its variety and availability, there’s always something for every budget.
Breakfast The most important meal to set you up for a busy day, most of the eateries we’ve mentioned make great breakfasts. However, one of the most popular destinations for this meal is Ming Ge Cafe. The handmade noodles and signature sauces are a delicious way to start the day, and the friendly staff are keen to guide and recommend combinations for you.
Although at the Biru Biru Cafe, you can enjoy recommended savoury dishes such as poke bowls and quesadillas, it is well known for its desert options. Choose from different flavoured waffles with a side of coconut ice cream and homemade custard. Then at night, the cafe transforms into a bar serving cocktails and punch. The Royal Coconut is the place to go for spectacular coconut deserts served in every way imaginable. Try traditional coconut pudding and coconut pandan shakes, which come with a scoop of coconut ice cream.
Head to Laundroluxe for a mix of European and Asian dishes. Here you can order anything from stir-fried noodles to spaghetti bolognese. But food isn’t the only fusion here. As the name suggests, not only can you enjoy prize-winning dinner service, but you can also do your laundry! A similarly multi-functional destination is the Print Cafe, where you can have a coffee and also get your printing done.
Our recommendations aren’t exhaustive, as Kota Kinabalu is full of hidden gems and new eateries pop up all the time. So when you arrive in the city, your best Kota Kinabalu food guides will be the locals themselves. Chat with your tour guides and ask for personal recommendations. Fellow travellers will have some great tips too. Everyone